The Plastic Problem

Paris-based artist Tadashi Kawamata has created a monumental installation of ocean plastic in the Oval Gallery of Lisbon's Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.

Normally I do a lot of digging around to find the most relevant information to include in these posts. But the information I needed for this one as very easy to find so less work to do - every cloud and all that. The sad thing is, this blog is about the plastic crisis that is causing immense damage to our world. There are so many reports, news articles, documentaries telling us all that this is a global issue and one many are ignoring. So in that aspect, this was a very easy blog to write. But in many other ways, one that is extremely hard to type.

We’ll get to all the facts and figures later, but first its important to talk about how we got here. When plastic was invented in 1907 by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland, it promised a revolution to the way we consume goods which were typically packaged using wood, paper or metals up until then. Plastics are made from a whole bunch of from natural, organic materials such as coal, natural gas, salt and, of course, crude oil. This means that traditional plastics are made from non-renewable sources. Now, some argue that the components of crude oil used to make plastic would otherwise be wasted if not used in the production of it. In other words, they are trying to claim it’s better to make something useful from those compounds rather than having them go to waste. This, in our view, is a poor reason to continue producing billions of tons of plastic that mostly end up in our landfills and oceans.

Look, we know plastic has helped the world is many ways from medicine to engineering. We’re not here to undermine the value plastics added to us for decades. The issue is the amount of plastic the world produces and throws away is simply unsustainable. Globally, we produce about 380 million tons of plastic waste, EVERY SINGLE YEAR. To put that into perspective that’s the equivalent to around 2m commercial airliners or 250m cars - crazy right?

Yes, recycling is good, but the matter of the fact is many of us are too lazy to recycle. And for those who can be bothered, good luck trying to find out if your local recycling centre recycles the plastic bottle you want to recycle. But for those who do recycle, including me, pats on backs because thanks to us a whopping 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. Yeah, that’s right, 9%, n-i-n-e. Where did the rest go? Into landfill, oceans, seas, rivers and even our food system - yum! It seems that somehow, we managed to miss the memo that plastic is not biodegradable – meaning it does not return to a natural and harmless state. Instead, large plastic pieces will eventually grind down to tiny, microscopic pieces known as microplastics. A report by the WHO in 2015 found that there is in increasing presence of microplastics in drinking water which means we are now consuming small plastic particles. The effects of consuming microplastics on humans is not yet known, but I think we can all agree that it surely can’t be good for us.

The biggest contributor to plastic waste is packaging. In the US alone, 80 million tons of plastic waste is comes from packaging. Think about all the things we buy from groceries to technology and even water – almost everything we buy gets wrapped in plastic packaging under the excuse of protecting the product inside. This is why we have decided to roll up our sleeves to reduce the amount of plastic packaging being produced and wasted. Imagine a world where single use plastic does not exist and instead is replaced with natural, biodegradable and renewable packaging solutions. We believe that businesses have to take the responsibility of recycling plastic away from consumers and instead offer real solutions which stop plastic from entering our ecosystem in the first place. It is simply not enough anymore to recycle, the only real solution to this crisis is to stop producing, consuming and relying on plastics.

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